The Significance of Educational and Welfare Policies for the Experiences of Higher Education Students with Dependent Children by Rachel Brooks


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The Significance of Educational and Welfare Policies for the Experiences of Higher Education Students with Dependent Children by Rachel Brooks - a presentation from the BSA Teaching Group Regional Conference at the University of Surrey on 31 May 2014.

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The Significance of Educational and Welfare Policies for the Experiences of Higher Education Students with Dependent Children by Rachel Brooks

  1. 1. R A C H E L B R O O K S The significance of educational and welfare policies for the experiences of higher education students with dependent children
  2. 2. Background  Recent government policy  Widening participation  Encouraging teenage mothers to stay in education  Implicit assumption that problems linked to wider social & political context  But few studies, esp. focussing on more than one HEI  No comparative work  Research sought to explore this further  Contrasting countries  HEIs with different histories & market positions
  3. 3. Research design  Sample  Two countries: UK & Denmark  Different ‘welfare regimes’  Two contrasting HEIs in each:  ‘Older University’ & ‘Newer University’  Research methods  Analysis of policy documents  Interviews with 2-3 staff members in each HEI  Interviews with 13-20 student-parents in each HEI
  4. 4. Key findings  National differences in relation to:  Structural support for student-parents  Attitudes towards student-parents  Degree of institutional variation
  5. 5. Structural differences UK Denmark Financial support Tuition fees payable Maintenance grant to those on low incomes Limited additional funding for student- parents on low incomes No tuition fees payable Government grants Additional maternity & paternity grants ‘Salary’ for PhD students Parental leave No automatic right to leave All students entitled to take maternity/paternity leave Flexible methods of study At discretion of academic staff; not common Required by state Childcare provision Varies by institution Nationally, reasonably high coverage, but expensive Varies by institution Nationally, extensive provision, at low cost
  6. 6. Cultural & attitudinal differences  UK – limited constructions of ‘ideal student’ ‘I think often our lecturers can treat the whole cohort as if they are 18 years of age & straight from school’ ‘Either, generally, in their life they are not prepared for it, or academically they are just not capable of it......& then it’s really difficult for the university to weed them out’  Denmark – different & more diverse constructions of the ideal student
  7. 7. Explaining national differences  National policies e.g.  Funding mechanisms for HE (inc. parental leave & pay)  Flexible study  Provision of childcare  Societal norms (e.g. about women working)  Evidence from European Social Survey ‘It is very rare for women in Denmark to stay home & take care of their children. In fact, it is something we talk about [because it’s so rare] – “Oh, she is staying home & taking care of her children!”’
  8. 8. Institutional variations  Danish universities both very similar  Much greater variation between UK HEIs  Considerably more structural support at Older University (e.g. nurseries, holiday clubs, bursaries)  Similar to Callender’s (2010) findings on provision of financial aid within UK HEIs  Rational response to particular political situation (marketised, but also pressures to widen participation)
  9. 9. Institutional variations  Different patterns emerged re cultural influences in UK  Some variation within Newer University  Within Older University, much stronger & more dominant culture – beyond that of the ‘traditional student’  Difference in extent to which identification as a ‘university student’ becomes individual’s main source of identity (Reay et al., 2010)
  10. 10. Explaining institutional variation  With less government support & direction, UK HEIs have more discretion  Marketised system encourages HEIs to develop policies & practices to suit market segment  UK more internally differentiated  Social characteristics of students likely to affect university culture
  11. 11. Conclusion  Are important differences in support & attitudes, broadly in line with wider social & political context  HE funding mechanisms  Norms re childcare  However, institutional characteristics cannot be simply ‘read off’ national context  Differences in degree of institutional variation  But this is also related to wider socio-political context  UK HEIs more diverse as result of more fully developed HE market
  12. 12. References  Brooks, R. (2014) Spatial disparities in emotional responses to education: feelings of ‘guilt’ amongst student-parents, British Educational Research Journal (forthcoming)  Brooks, R. (2013) International students with dependent children: the reproduction of gender norms, British Journal of Sociology of Education. (Advance online publication)  Brooks, R. (2013) Negotiating time and place for study: student-parents and familial relationships, Sociology 47, 3, 443-459.  Brooks, R. (2012) Student-parents and higher education: a cross-national comparison, Journal of Education Policy 27, 3, 423-437.